A Hand Holding A Phone Over A Table With Cups And A Hand Holding A Cell Phone

The Potter's Tale


Destination 7 minute read


Khun Nguan is the owner and founder of Aoon, the Bangkok pottery studio behind the custom-designed crockery found throughout COMO Metropolitan Bangkok’s Michelin-starred nahm restaurant.

Khun Nguan worked with nahm’s Executive Chef, Pim Techamuanvivit, to design each of the bespoke collection’s pieces, with their own distinct style, pattern and colour scheme. 

Here, we share an insight into Khun Nguan’s philosophy as a craftsman, how he discovered his passion for pottery, and how his partnership with COMO was fashioned by fate.

A Group Of Objects On A Surface
A Grey Cup On A Wood Surface

Tucked amongst the quiet backstreets of Bangkok’s Chinatown — the warren of low-rise buildings strung with Chinese lanterns and home to family-run workshops of every kind — you’ll find Aoon, where pottery is not just a craft, but a philosophy.

Aoon is perfectly at home in Bangkok’s Chinatown. It’s a place where the art of working with your hands is still valued, where mechanics and barrel-makers earn their living amid artisan craftsmen and striking street murals. It’s a place where old and new artforms mingle as one. 

You could easily miss its entrance, hidden as it is amid thick green foliage. Fortunately, there is a guardian to guide your way. 

Meet ‘Seux’ — Thai for ‘Tiger’ — a former street cat who stands sentinel in her plush red collar, welcoming visitors with friendly swipes of her stubby tail. Push open the door and she’ll dart ahead of you, picking her way with practised ease among the stacks of pottery: “She never breaks anything,” Khun Nguan says with a chuckle. “At least, not without intention.”

A Shelf With Many Pots And Pans On It

Aoon’s founder, Khun Nguan, is as local as they come. Born in Bangkok, he grew up a stone’s throw from Chinatown where he has chosen to base his workshop and studio. He feels a natural affinity to the area, not only because his grandfather hailed from southern China, but also because the atmosphere chimes nicely with the name — and ethos — of his business. Aoon translates as “warm”, which Khun Nguan feels neatly sums up Chinatown: “Not too hot, not too cold - somewhere in the middle that everyone can enjoy. That idea is at the heart of every piece I make.”

Khun Nguan hasn’t always been a potter. He originally trained as an engineer and had been working at Honda, until he reached a turning point eight years ago. He realised that his passion for pottery — which began as a hobby to wind down from his stressful job — had grown into an obsession that consumed almost all of his free hours. It was time to take a leap of faith, and so he packed a bag and headed to Chiang Rai, where he begged for an apprenticeship with a master potter.

The master didn’t mince his words. He warned Khun Nguan that the life of a potter was far from glamorous — in fact, it was dirty, tiring and poorly paid. But Khun Nguan was undeterred. After completing his apprenticeship, he studied in Korea and China before returning to Bangkok, his passion burning brighter than ever. 

Khun Nguan’s work draws influence from all over the world, as well as from thousands of years of Thai pottery tradition. He doesn’t consider himself bound to one style or tradition, instead taking what he likes from each and creating pieces that are truly unique from one another.

A Group Of Wooden Barrels

The most important thing to Khun Nguan is that his pieces are not only beautiful, but functional: “Everything I make is supposed to be used, it must be used. I believe we can enhance our life every day just by using handmade pottery. It makes even the simplest cup of coffee an occasion.”

Still an engineer at heart, Khun Nguan doesn’t base his craft on guesswork. When he first founded Aoon, he hosted a regular coffee shop where he invited people to come and test out his products, using their feedback to improve his offering. His runaway success means he’s now too busy to open for coffee, but he’s still getting feedback by calling on his ever-increasing international fanbase on social media to share their thoughts. 

Functionality is just one pillar of Khun Nguan’s philosophy; there are three more. Firstly, all of his pieces must be natural, made from 100 percent clay and glazed with non-toxic powers that are free from any heavy metals. 

The next is his commitment to local materials. Without exception, all of the clay he uses comes from Thailand, largely from villages close to Bangkok, which he often visits to dig the clay himself.

Finally, everything he makes is entirely handmade. There isn’t a mould in sight, meaning every piece is entirely unique and imbued with its own personality. A single piece takes at least 12 days to make, with two firings — first at 800 degrees celsius for 12 hours, then again at 1250 degrees celsius for 14 to 18 hours — with more complex pieces taking even longer. 

But how did Aoon come to be connected to COMO? Like all the best things in life, it was steered by fate. COMO’s pastry chef was taking a stroll through Chinatown when he was caught in a sudden monsoon downpour. He ducked into the nearest doorway and found himself in the Aoon studio, sharing a cup of coffee with Khun Nguan. 

A Plate Of Vegetables

Following a hunch, he returned with COMO Metropolitan Bangkok’s Executive Chef, Pim Techamuanvivit. Once Chef Pim and Khun Nguan realised the affinity between their two philosophies — that of combining the finest natural and locally-sourced ingredients to create dishes with a distinct personality — a partnership was born.

The pieces Khun Nguan creates for our guests to enjoy in nahm — COMO Metropolitan Bangkok’s Michelin-starred modern Thai restaurant — are designed from scratch, and with deep purpose. To understand exactly what was required, he began by visiting Nahm, watching the chefs at work, sampling the cuisine, and carefully recording exactly how the food and the guests would interact with the pottery. Only then did he start working with Chef Pim on the colours, style and patterns.

The relationship is an ever-evolving process, with Khun Nguan continuing to craft more new pieces for COMO all the time. He returns to nahm every time he requires new inspiration: “I try to go back as often as I can. Can you blame me?” he chuckles.

As for Khun Nguan’s passion for his craft, that too continues to blossom. Despite the hard work and long hours, his obsession has never diminished. 

“Why do I do it?” he ponders. “I make sure to ask myself this question on a regular basis, to keep my mind clear. At the moment, the honest answer is this: I cannot not do it.” 

A Plate Of Food
A Plate Of Food And A Bowl Of Salad

Aoon is located in Chinatown, a short ten-minute drive from COMO Metropolitan Bangkok. To visit the workshop, see Khun Nguan’s process up close and choose pieces for yourself (international shipping is available), speak to our concierge who will help you arrange transport.